Our Pop up Summer Exhibition Women through the War NOW OPEN - Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum

Added: 08 June 2018


The Impact of WW1 on how women dressed

The years surrounding the First World War saw significant changes to many women's lives, which were reflected in the clothes they wore. From the restrictive, if beautiful, dresses of the Edwardian era to the more emancipated styles of the early 1920s, a social revolution was being set in motion. Initially voiced by the suffragettes, it then accelerated during the war as women took over what had been traditionally men's roles in munitions factories, in non combatant roles in the military, notably as nurses, and elsewhere. Finally, the Representation of the People Act  in 1918 gave the vote to some 8.4 million women aged over 30 who met minimum property qualifications.

To mark this anniversary, the Totnes Fashion and Textile Museum based at Bogan House in Totnes will be mounting a small exhibition of clothes which represent these changes - from an elegant ensemble from the early years of the 20th century, to the much looser and freer dress styles which emerged in the 1920s. Highlights are set to include an extravagant hat decorated in suffragette colours and an eye-catching cycling outfit, which will stand in contrast to the more severe ensembles worn by working women during the war years, including a nurse's uniform of the time.

The Museum is not without its own challenges, however. This lovely Grade ! listed building is experiencing necessary renovation work which is restricting the ability of the Museum's volunteers to mount their customary full scale exhibition. Instead, one large room will be available from 5th June until the end of September. The exhibition will feature approximately 14 or 15 ensembles with supporting accessories, and a display of photographs from the period provided by the Totnes Image Bank. The Museum's shop will be open as usual. The exhibition will therefore be open by donation rather than a set charge, with all the money raised going to help keep this little gem of an organisation going.

Additionally, there are plans for a series of talks on different aspects of fashion and clothing through the years, which will be open to all. Regular articles on aspects of the running the Museum , with periodic updates on the renovation work, will be featured on the Museum's website, and a book about the collection is currently being finalised for publication later this year. Information on all these activities will be made available on the Museum's website, as plans are confirmed.

The Totnes Fashion & Textiles Museum is open daily from 11am -  5pm, Tuesday - Friday (and some Saturdays from July) until the end of September.It is situated on Totnes High Street in Bogan House, opposite the Market Square.


With some uncertainty surrounding building work, it is strongly advised that visitors check the Museum website to confirm that it is open, before setting out. All opening details, plus information on talks, regular articles and updates can be found on www.devonmuseums.net 


For more information please contact the curator, Julia Fox, on 01803 862857